Technology Coming To the Aid Of Trade Exhibitions In 2020, more than 1,700 events were scheduled to take place, most of which were shelved due to the global pandemic and the countrywide lockdown

By Yogesh Mudras

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As India is moving towards a gradual removal of the lockdown, businesses are showing strong resilience in the face of crisis as they begin to restart operations slowly. Assessing the impact of the pandemic on industries, the biggest challenge businesses faced is continuity as several industries are still reeling under the impact of a disrupted sourcing and supply chain.

The case of the events and exhibition industry is no different. In 2020, more than 1,700 events were scheduled to take place, most of which were shelved due to the global pandemic and the countrywide lockdown. Some of these events took place via digital platforms or other digital methods wherein virtual reality booths made up for the absence of company officials.

Indeed, technology came to the aid of the industry to solve the problem of engaging with stakeholders and eking out viable solutions. According to a study conducted by the Indian Exhibitions Industry Association (IEIA), approximately INR 300,000 crore of business and related trade has been affected due to non-holding of exhibitions in India this year, with about 1.5 million estimated livelihoods affected that depend on exhibitions for their sustenance. The event and entertainment industry employ approximately 60 million people in India, 10 million of which were directly affected by the crisis.

During this pandemic, technology came to the aid of the industry not as an entity in itself—rather, as a method for proceeding to draw in with the pro-business sectors. What's great about virtual events is that they are flexible and can be tailored to the business needs, which makes it much easier to scale. Hosting of an event for more people is cost effective.

Today, we live in an experience economy. So, to create a profitable exhibition experience, it is imperative for companies to use their displays to grab attention, attract footfall, and start relevant conversations if they wish to capitalize on the potential of a captive and targeted audience at tradeshows and other events. A survey of our recent Virtual B2B Celebration indicated that more than 60 per cent of visitors spent more than three hours on the virtual platform, and every exhibitor receives more than 50 per cent of the overall visitor footfall in their booths—vital for business leads at a time when the lockdown saw a temporary halt to physical B2B platforms.

Sooner or later, rising technologies, for example, virtual and augmented reality will presumably come more into play trying to make a significantly more vivid experience and catch the consideration of participants, keeping them more required through connecting with content and moving them to a shop floor or creation office. Given the evolving needs of visitors, various advantages of virtual platforms can be leveraged in the physical format to give an advantage to both exhibitors/visitors to interact seamlessly and share information through chat/videos/email apart from face to face. Conferences/lounge/B2B meeting can be created in the virtual platforms for better engagement of the visitors. Buyers can generate quality leads in a short time and the reach is much beyond boundaries.

Given the sectoral expertise and engagement with stakeholders acquired during previous physical events, it will also be imperative for trade exhibitions organisers to customize the virtual events as per the different sets of needs of each domain.

A feature of virtual events that could be leveraged well during the Lockdown was that the volume of preparation is significantly lower than the corresponding physical ones. Hence companies/organizers can schedule events more frequently on the headway of innovation and stakeholder requirements. One thing is certain: they can be an incredible option in an inexorably advanced reality where everybody is attempting to be quicker, defter and boost time and assets.

Future analysis thus reveals that physical exhibitions, now enhanced by the digital corpus, will always remain relevant. Professionals in different industries are passionately curious, love the touch and feel aspect of products, and view networking as more than just a clinical process. You cannot do without the face-to-face aspects in some key sectors, such as jewellery, food ingredients, leisure or where large machines are involved.

With the pandemic, we have come closer to technology as a way of staying relevant in the physical expo ecosystem. It is up to us to leverage these to make the entire process of visiting a trade show impressively comfortable for attendees. These would include conducting businesses and enabling seamless registrations, adhering to safety standards, erasing geographical boundaries to terms of international thought leaders, and dignitaries, to name a few.

The Government has recognised B2B expos as enablers of business opportunities across all industries by directly connecting the buyers with the sellers. These B2B market places also serve as a major stimulus for industrial and commercial development in the regions. From here, we can only take the next steps towards excellence, relevance and safety seamlessly as an industry as we continue to adopt a hybrid system, taking the best of the physical and virtual platforms.

Yogesh Mudras

Managing Director, Informa Markets in India

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